“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13 NLT
I have a confession to make. For most of my life, I’ve only used one version of the Bible. It’s true. Some of you may be thinking, “Cherie, that’s not much of a confession.” Well, hear me out. I stuck to just one version and dismissed all the others for all sorts of reasons, but in doing so, I think I may have handicapped my study quite a bit. You see, different versions add to the meaning of each verse that I study. Different versions paint the same verse in a different light, and I have come to find that in using different versions, I have benefited much! In fact, I experienced this very thing with the above verses today. I’ve read through the book of Romans countless times, but I never (before today) understood Romans 12:9-13 like I do now.
One of the things I love most about God is that we can’t fool Him. We can exhaust ourselves in “cleaning up” the outward appearance, but He always sees straight to the heart. Our motives are never missed by Him. So, instead of just another command to love others, the New Living Translation calls us out and says, “STOP PRETENDING!” (my paraphrase) Love must be genuine, or it’s not love at all. To really love others means that we love them as we love ourselves. How are we doing on that?
Believe me, I understand how difficult it can be to love the unlovable. Like you, I’ve been given countless opportunities in this life to love like Christ loved me, and unfortunately I’ve failed quite often in the category of loving the unlovely. But perhaps, the key to overcoming this illness of our hearts is found just below this command to “really love them” at the end of verse 12:
“…and keep on praying.”
Don’t you think Christ knew more than anyone just how difficult it would be to love those that didn’t always love Him in return? And don’t you think, then, that it was very intentional that this command to “really love” would be coupled with the command to “keep on praying”? Prayer is the love language of our Father in Heaven. Prayer keeps our hearts beating in accordance with His. Prayer unites us with Christ. Prayer can be the catalyst to overcoming a multitude of evils, even the evil of failing to “really love”.
So, let’s ask ourselves a serious question today, one that I know I need to ask myself:
“Am I just pretending?”